As mayor of Tees Valley I know that Whitehall needs to stop micromanaging and let local people tackle local problems
After I spent a day showing the secretary of state for levelling up some of the transformative projects in my area, a reporter asked Michael Gove what his new job was about. His answer was simple: “If you want to see what levelling up looks like, come to Teesside.” Having been scorned, patronised, belittled or simply ignored for years by the Whitehall establishment, it’s fantastic to finally be recognised as a shining example of what the government’s most important policy ought to look like on the ground.
“Levelling up” is a phrase on everyone’s lips at the moment, and it has been uttered often during the Conservative party conference this week. Indeed, in his speech in Manchester yesterday Gove defined it further and spoke of “making opportunity more equal”. The idea is especially important for the prime minister, who knows that the “red wall” voters who backed him at the last general election are now hoping he will deliver opportunities that once seemed impossible for their communities. Being acknowledged is important; but just as with Brexit, voters want not platitudes but real delivery.
Ben Houchen is the Conservative mayor of Tees Valley